“While visiting these spots, it occurred to me that taking a selfie with a large monument or a minuscule masterpiece is, you know, really embarrassing. Not to mention logistically awkward.”
It didn’t quite occur to me just how alone I would be when I embarked on a solo trip through Europe last summer. A combination of saying goodbye to loved ones and toasting to new adventures distracted me from the realities of what lied ahead. Instead, all I prepared for was the practical stuff like booking accommodation, buying tickets, sensible shoes, sexy knickers, etc.
When I finally crawled off the plane and into Barcelona’s 35 degree Celsius summer season, I definitely had to have a “get yourself together” moment. I located my luggage and hopped onto a lurching bus, fragrant with the smell of coffee, sweat and cigarettes. Naturally, my first holiday hiccup occurred soon after when I forgot a wad of cash on the seat as I left (d’ oh) and a hat I didn’t like anyway (sorry, mum).
Fresh from leaving my job and making some hard life decisions, I decided that I deserved to splurge on my first few nights of accommodation, so I went for a relatively pricey hotel and felt mighty smug when I opened the door to a crispy-sheet-mega-king-bed-extensive-mini-bar-expansive-view dream room. Let the living begin! An early arrival meant that I had a whole day to lounge by the pool, eat some novelty Spanish snacks, and practice some cliché flirting with the pool boy. Later on, with my back a collection of tan lines, I fell heavily into the bed of dreams. It took me by surprise when I got my first wave of “oh, it’s just me then”.
I spent the next few days travelling the well-worn tourist tracks of Park Güell, squeezing down La Rambla and marvelling at original Picassos. Anyone who has seen it knows that a visit to Barcelona is not quite complete without a trip to the Sagrada Família. Its pulsating, fluid, convention-defying architecture does something to your soul; it’s an eye-sore and a masterpiece all at once.
While visiting these spots, it occurred to me that taking a selfie with a large monument or a minuscule masterpiece is, you know, really embarrassing. Not to mention logistically awkward. What trumped the embarrassing solo selfie for me, it turned out, were the many meals for one I had to embark on. Ordering and eating a giant pan of freshly made paella and an entire bottle of red wine (and maybe a teeny tiny serving of patatas bravas) would make even the most confident of single lady travellers a little abashed. I craved a boyfriend who would laugh at my schoolgirl Spanish and then plant a “God, you are the cutest” kiss on my forehead. I looked for a girlfriend who I could peer pressure into having tequila shots with me for dessert. When these two things didn’t materialise, I sent my mum a “Wish you were here” Snapchat.
That table-for-one anxiety popped up and peered through my self-confidence all through the first week in Barcelona, and frankly, I was sick of it. I wanted to be completely self-sufficient in theory AND in practice.
My last day rolled around, and I ate another breakfast for one by the pool: an oozing, creamy, chorizo-specked tortilla the size of my head. Initially, the waiter offered it to the couple next to me and then sheepishly delivered it to my table, hiding the second set of cutlery behind his back. “Enough,” I thought. I was going to ditch the iPod I had been relying on, wear something that didn’t deter the (over)amorous Spanish boys and own solo summer like it weren’t no thang.
I wish I had known that the key to ditching my anxiety was to venture to one of Barcelona’s key attractions. Though it fastidiously ticks all the cliché tourist boxes, Barcelona’s most central and popular beach, Barceloneta has bustling and vital energy that makes a lone beach trip something seductive and exciting. Perhaps it’s the scantily clad beautiful people basting their bronzed and buff bodies, the sweat-soaked merchant men selling fruity cocktails and ice-cold beers, the bass-heavy pop anthems that blast from sand muffled boom boxes… whatever it is, it all contributes to the youthful and vibrant feel.
Lying out a towel I had nicked from the hotel and stripping down to my near-nothings, I had never felt so comfortable in a crowd of so many humans. Before long, a handsome holidaymaker had thrown me a beach ball and my favourite song began to blare out over the 1100 metres of sand and glistening sea. What could be better than this sun-soaked club with its energy and heat, where the expansive Atlantic Ocean takes centre stage, and everyone (even Nigel-no-mates) is wholeheartedly invited.
Author - Corinna Joseph
Corinna Joseph lives in the United Kingdom. A fashion copywriter by trade, Corinna left the laid-back pace of New Zealand for London, soul-searching and seeking out adventure along the way.
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